Watch out for propaganda tactics during election year

Published 6:56 am Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dear Editor,

Election time is here and propaganda at all levels of government and from both parties fill the airways. Since every candidate does it to some extent, what’s the problem? We, the voters, must be aware of the misleading ways employed to influence our votes. Here are some examples:

• Name-calling: using negative, discriminatory words to arouse suspicion and prejudice. During Trump’s campaign, he called Ted Cruz “lying Ted,” Jeb Bush “low-energy Jeb” and Marco Rubio “little Marco.”

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• Glittering generalities: using slogans and catchphrases attractive to audience. Example: Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” Make America strong, proud and safe. By implication, America isn’t any of these unless this candidate wins.

• Plain folks: Ordinary people try to sell or persuade you to vote a certain way. Example: Andy Barr putting a mother and older armed service veterans to express feats about Amy McGrath’s views on immigration and defense.

• Card-stacking: Emphasize one side of an argument and repress another. Example: Trump’s attacking the media as fake news.

• Big lie and repetition: If you say something loud and long enough, people will begin to believe it. Examples: Obama was not born in America; Russia didn’t interfere in our election.

• Scapegoating: creating a villain to blame. Example: Trump saying ills of economy and rise in crime the result of illegal immigration.

• Diversion: getting the media and populace to focus on something else. Trump’s constant tweeting is an example.

• Extension: exaggerate the meaning of evidence to make a point or exaggerate an opponent’s position in order to attack. Example: Trump’s tweet, “Companies are giving big bonuses to their workers because of the Tax Cut Bill.”

• The tweet above is also an example of post hoc fallacy — assuming because one event followed another, the first caused the second.

• Hast generalization: drawing conclusions from a small number of incidents with little or no proof.

The extensive reliance on such techniques should give us pause that the individual using these methods has little regard for the intelligence of his or her audience and little faith in the soundness of their own views. Propaganda is not new. However, unrecognized, it can lead to dire consequences. Just look at pre-WWII Germany.

Jane Preston