How You Can Defeat Propaganda

Defense Against the Dark Arts 402

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Since this is a website available around the world, it is appropriate to talk about how to combat propaganda that has the full weight and power of the state behind it -- because there are still places on this earth where that's happening.

The more common public relations challenge is combating propaganda on a smaller scale, whether it's a political campaign, a corporate battle or a non-profit trying to generate awareness of an issue in the face of a government covering up the evidence.

It's hard to fight fire with fire, especially when you (a) can't use the same evil techniques, manipulations and lies as the other side and (b) are typically David in a fight against Goliath since propaganda is a tool of those in power and on top.

1) Using Leaks to Undermine Propaganda

The greatest strength of a propaganda campaign is also its greatest weakness.

An organized and well-funded propaganda campaign involves a lot of people communicating with each other, holding meetings, writing documents, making plans and sending e-mails.

It's harder and harder to keep a secret these days. A single leaked e-mail can expose a propaganda effort as a fraud and a lie.

Some experts are now predicting that this problem is impossible to solve and that the Wikileaks scandals mean the age of big, top-down organizations is over. Only smaller, self-contained teams will be able to control sensitive information and not get leaked to death.

If you're in a fight against propaganda, getting this sort of evidence from the inside is crucial to undermining the motives and credibility of the other side. This will help level the field.

2) Subverting propaganda

The other tactic you must use is rhetorical jujitsu. Don't try to fight imagery with imagery and slogans with slogans.

If you're the underdog, you're going to get outgunned, and they're fighting dirty while you're fighting fair. You'll lose that kind of battle.

Take all the time, money and effort they're spending on images, slogans, and messages and use it against the propagandist by subverting those images, slogans, and messages.

During the Cold War, and even today in totalitarian regimes, you'll see this with clever graffiti artists defacing posters to undermine and reverse the intended message of the propaganda.

3) Create your own ways to communicate

The last tactic is to establish your own channels of communication, especially if the other side dominates -- or controls -- the mainstream media.

Social media, blogs and e-mail can let you communicate directly to the people and the press, and that's vital in a fight against propaganda.