The Psychology of Propaganda (Why You Can't Escape It)

The Psychology of Propaganda (Why You Can’t Escape It)

In the digital age, propaganda has become increasingly pervasive – ubiquitous in our lives and unavoidable to those of us who pay attention. It is everywhere, from political campaigns to advertisements on television and billboards, to even more pernicious uses such as social media manipulation. But what does psychology have to do with this phenomenon?

Ideologies At Their Core

One of Jordan Peterson’s rules for life is to Abandon Ideologies. He believes that ideologies are a form of mental illness, as they can cause people to disconnect from reality. However, underneath every ideology is an ideal.

At its core, every ideology starts with a noble goal. It’s the execution of these goals that often leads to disaster. An ideology can become a form of fundamentalism, where one group is convinced that their beliefs are the only correct ones and any opposition must be crushed.

As the saying goes, “All roads to hell are paved with good intentions”. 

Remember this when engaging in ideological debates. Try to understand the core of what people are saying and focus on the facts. Finding common ground can lead to more intellectual discussions rather than back-and-forth rhetoric. 

It is easy to get swept away in the emotion of an argument, but we must remain rational and logical. We must strive to avoid confirmation bias and remain open to new ideas. Only then can we understand the nuances of an ideology and find a way to bridge the divide between opposing groups. 

In a way, the rules that Jordan Peterson lays out can become an ideology in itself. Let’s recognize this, and not get caught up in the details of his teachings. Instead, we can focus on the core idea – that we are always being hooked by external forces. It is our job to become aware of these hooks and learn to pull them off (we all have some).

Propaganda Is Everywhere

From newspaper headlines to television advertisements, propaganda is everywhere. It can be subtle or in-your-face, but the end result is always the same – it seeks to manipulate our thinking without us even knowing it.

Ideologies have run rampant in the modern age, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern truth from fiction. From Bitcoin Maximalism, Marxism, Minimalism, Veganism, Carnivores, Flat-Earthers, and so on, the internet has given a platform for people to propagate any message they want. Humans are tribal. Our ancestors fought wars over their beliefs in gods and ideologies. In the digital age, we are no different – except now, our battlefield is online.

Propaganda can be used by individuals at scale now thanks to the internet. It can be used to sway public opinion or influence political outcomes, and it has become an effective weapon in the modern information war.

Are You Vulnerable To Propaganda?

The power of propaganda lies in its ability to tap into our psychological processes: our cognitive biases, emotional vulnerabilities, and tendencies toward groupthink. Propaganda works by exploiting these facets of human behavior to influence attitudes and behaviors. The techniques used range from subtle suggestion and word choice to blatant manipulation through fear or false promises.

At its core, propaganda is about changing how people think about certain topics – instilling a particular viewpoint and influencing our beliefs. It can be used to create an “us vs. them” mentality, divide public opinion, or rally people behind a specific cause.

It is essential to recognize that this type of rhetoric is not always malicious… it can also be used to promote positive values or messages.

The difficulty lies in discerning the difference.

Role Models: Influencer marketing isn’t a new concept, but it has become increasingly popular as a tool for delivering propaganda. Influencers have the power to shape public opinion and influence consumer decisions. They are typically celebrities or someone with a large social media following who is seen as an expert in their field. Their endorsement of certain products can go a long way toward swaying public opinion and influencing buying decisions.

Humans outsource their decision-making to more authoritative beings, and the public is often more likely to believe a message if it comes from someone they trust. This makes influencer marketing an incredibly effective form of propaganda. However, role models are also susceptible to manipulation and can be used to promote damaging messages or false information.

Virtuous models can also influence us positively. They can provide an example to aspire to, and their behavior and words can be used as motivation to do good in the world. The common saying, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” illustrates the power of role models.

Censorship: If you only see one side of a story, it can be hard to form an informed opinion or make rational decisions. Censorship can also lead to the propagation of dangerous or false information. It can be used to selectively emphasize certain messages and suppress others, preventing the public from hearing a full range of opinions and arguments.

The Use of Scapegoats: Blaming personal troubles on external threats is an irresponsible response to difficult situations. Tyrants and manipulators will exploit this. For example, the bourgeoisie (or the wealthy) are often blamed for poverty by the proletariat (working class) in Marxist ideology. The use of scapegoats is a means of deflecting blame and distracting from the truth. It is an incredibly effective tool for instilling fear and inciting violence.

Feminism blames men. Men from the red pill society blame feminine men. Racism blames minorities. Attacks on religion, politics, and culture also use this technique. By demonizing an entire group of people, it’s easier to manipulate the masses into taking action against them.

Virtue Signaling: The formation of hierarchies are innate to humans. From the corporate structure to families and sporting teams, we categorize and rank ourselves. Virtue signaling is a term used to describe the tendency of people to publicly announce their moral values in an attempt to gain status. It can take the form of social media posts, donating money to charities, or volunteering for causes.

Becoming the most virtuous person can become a hierarchy as well. Propaganda tends to convey a message that people must compete to be the most virtuous. This competition can lead to a situation where individuals become so focused on appearing morally superior that they forget what truly matters: caring for one another and improving their own lives. 

Propagandists will use this hierarchy to their advantage, creating incentives for those that follow them. They will promise rewards in exchange for loyalty, whether it is a better job or greater social status. But these promises can often be empty.

Social Proof: People tend to look to others for information on how they should think and behave. This is known as the Principle of Social Proof in marketing. The propagandist will use this to their advantage, seeking out likeminded people and encouraging them to share their message. 

For example, if a group of people around you is running a certain way, you are more likely to follow them as a real threat could be approaching. You trust in their judgement for the better. This can be used to encourage large groups of people to follow a particular course of action or believe a certain idea. The larger the number of people that buy into the idea, the more powerful it becomes. 

The Value of Being A Wordsmith

The power of words should never be underestimated. Whether they are used to manipulate or motivate, words can shape our behavior and beliefs. We need to become more responsible with how we wield this power. The pen is mightier than the sword, or so they say…

Becoming a master of language is an invaluable skill in today’s world. It allows us to better understand how emotions and ideas are spread, and how to craft more effective messages. We must learn to be skeptical of the information we consume, recognizing that its purpose may not always be noble.

Framing is a concept that many marketers and propaganda writers understand. It involves adjusting the topic of conversation to make it appear more favorable and less threatening. A well-crafted message can influence people on a subconscious level. It is important to remember that words have power, and it’s up to us to make sure we use them responsibly.

Here’s an example of how framing with words can alter perceptions

Propaganda is evil. It manipulates people and distorts reality. Vs. Propaganda is a powerful tool of persuasion. It can be used to spread important messages and motivate people to act.

The same words convey two very different messages depending on the context they are used in. The ability to wield words as a weapon is becoming increasingly important. We must learn to recognize when it is being used against us and use it wisely when we wield its power.

Auditory Propaganda

It’s not just words that have power. Music, chants, and audio messages can also be used to influence people’s emotions and behavior. Hitler famously used music as a tool for motivating his followers during rallies. The same tactic has been used by many other leaders throughout history. By using scary music while showing anti-semitic videos of Jewish people, Hitler was able to stir his supporters into a frenzy.

Auditory propaganda has been used in recent years as well. In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump’s campaign used chants of “build the wall” and “lock her up” to rally voters against Hillary Clinton. Slogans like these are easy to remember and can be used to sway public opinion.

Audio-visual media is even more powerful than written or spoken words. It can evoke strong emotions like fear, anger, and hate – as well as hope, love, and loyalty. A leader walking out to inspirational or baroque music may create the perception of wisdom and hope. In contrast, if that person were to walk out too dark, industrial music, it could send a message of fear and power.

Dun Dun Dun Dunnnnn! Are you still loving it?

How To Resist Propaganda

To resist propaganda, remain aware of your susceptibility to it and practice critical thinking. This means questioning the source of information and looking for evidence to support claims before taking them at face value. Was there an incentive for a certain perspective?

We should also make an effort to educate ourselves about different types of propaganda and understand how it is used. Remember that not all forms of persuasion are evil and manipulative. There are plenty of legitimate uses for words and audio-visuals, and using them responsibly is key. The best way to fight propaganda is to be aware of its existence and to use our words wisely.

Don’t Blame Others: Taking responsibility for your life rather than blaming others is also a way to resist being angered and manipulated by a scapegoat. Make it an intellectual challenge to become responsible for everything that happens to you. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t blame others. And don’t give propagandists that chance.

Be Careful of Idol Worship: Having role models and mentors can be a net benefit to your life, but be careful not to become too attached. Remember that you are ultimately responsible for yourself and don’t give others too much power over you. Become the best version of yourself, not a clone of someone else.

Seek Out Multiple Points of View: In our hyper-connected world, it’s easier than ever to find multiple points of view. Research the issue, look at all sides and talk to people who have opposing views. This will give you a more rounded view of the situation and help you resist being swayed by propaganda.

Becoming Individualistic: It’s important to leave the herd mentality behind and think for yourself. This means having your own opinions, standing up for what you believe in, and remaining true to your personal values. However, it also doesn’t mean becoming reclusive and isolated. It’s important to stay engaged and informed so you can make the best decisions for yourself.

The Psychology Behind Propaganda

Research suggests that propaganda works because of the way we process information. We tend to filter out information contrary to our views and seek out those which conform with our existing opinions; this makes us vulnerable to suggestion and manipulation.

In addition, the power of emotion plays an important role in how persuasive propaganda can be, as emotions are known to have a major influence on decision-making processes. It can be difficult to think logically when we are overwhelmed by strong emotions.

Another reason why propaganda is so successful is that we tend to conform. We often agree with those around us, even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary. This is especially true when we trust the people around us or feel that they are experts.

From an evolutionary psychology standpoint, it makes sense to conform. If no one else is willing to eat a berry, it may be dangerous to do so. Being the first or a leader has its risks and rewards. If given a chance, that berry might be the best thing you ever tasted. It could also be nutritious and lead to a better survival rate for the group. This is still evident in entrepreneurship with leaders resisting traditional models for businesses, oftentimes creating new markets and industries that wouldn’t exist without them.

By understanding the psychology of propaganda, we can better protect ourselves from its effects. Propaganda is a multi-faceted complex and powerful tool. Expert manipulators have understood the framework of persuasion for centuries. It is important to remain aware of it and use it responsibly when we wield its power.

Mimetic Desire and Propaganda

René Girard’s mimetic theory of desire is another important concept to consider when discussing propaganda. Mimetic desire is a psychological phenomenon in which people imitate the desires of others, often resulting in competition and conflict as each strives to possess what someone else has.

Propaganda taps into this phenomenon by portraying an object or idea as desirable, stirring up a sense of competition and desire to possess it. This can be used to manipulate people into buying products, believing in political ideals, or engaging in destructive behaviors. Propaganda and the ideologies underlining them may differ. But human nature is the same.

“We fight because we are the same, not because we are different.” 

— René Girard (French Philosopher and Polymath)

The Balancing Act

At the end of the day, we must remember that our own autonomy is paramount. It is important to have an understanding of the psychological principles behind propaganda so that we can protect ourselves from its influence. But it is also important to remember that not all propagation is negative – it can be used for positive purposes as well, such as educating the public or creating a sense of community and solidarity.

Final Thoughts

Propaganda is a powerful tool, one which can be used for good or ill. It is up to us as individuals to recognize when it is being used against us and to be skeptical of the messages we are being bombarded with. The psychological effects of propaganda are real and should not be underestimated. By understanding its core principles and staying vigilant, we can protect ourselves from its influence and make decisions based on facts and our own independent thought. 

Virtual reality is changing the way we experience and interact with the world. It has become an incredibly powerful tool for delivering propaganda. Marketers and governments can use it to effectively control the narrative and influence people in ways that were never previously possible. 

With an immersive experience, it can be difficult to discern the difference between fabricated reality and the truth. Let’s remain alert and aware of how this technology is being used and be sure to take a skeptical, critical approach when it comes to our decisions. 







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