You need to know who is presenting the propaganda item. If it is white propaganda the source will be obvious. If it is gray propaganda you may have a problem figuring out who is behind it. If it is black propaganda you might not recognize it as propaganda and so can't analyze it.
Disguising the Presenter
- Astroturf: "Astroturf lobbying" is a term attributed to Senator Lloyd Bentsen (TX). It refers to "grass roots" movements which are actually created and funded by corporate interests. This technique of lobbying can be very effective but is also very expensive. It relies on the appearance of being a "popular" movement while it is in fact being funded by some entity with an interest in the situation. See Sharon Beder's paper in Public Relations Quarterly, Summer 98. Also see the Front Groups entry.
- Front Groups: These are organizations that purport to represent one agenda while in reality being funded by someone with different ideas. The name of the front group is often Americans for _______. Fill in the blank. The same goes for Citizens for ________, The Committee for _________, etc. It is usually interesting to find out who is bankrolling the group.
- Push Poll: This is far less a poll than a propaganda technique. It will use a "question" which actually implies something unfavorable about the subject of the question. A push poll question is often used to spread misinformation about someone or something. Suppose a pollster asked you "Would you be inclined to vote for Senator Fiddle if you knew he had a drinking problem?" Your answer to the question is not important; your ultimate reaction to the drinking problem allegation is.
- Video News Releases: This relatively recent trick involves preparing a message (often an ad) in a video sequence which looks exactly like a news item. TV outlets will often pick these up and use them in news programs because it saves production cost. The video piece can be loaded with all kinds of propaganda tricks and its origin may not be obvious.