21st century is characterized with the commencement of many new spheres of activities; one of such is the mass media. This new sphere revolutionized the spread of news, facts and information from one corner of the globe to another. Every day we keep ourselves abreast of happenings that are thousands miles away in just a matter of seconds. Access to knowledge, now, is universal by dent of the modern mass media.
Likewise, mass media is a good source of disseminating propaganda. Every day, we unknowingly come across facts, news, and information through books, newspapers and social media that are infested with propaganda. So what actually propaganda is? Is it harmful for a society? In simple words, propaganda is the dissemination of information that can influence the public opinion. Propaganda can be harmful in some cases, if not in all.
Propaganda is a good mean through which an individual or a group can mobilize the populace in their desired direction by blurring their sight from actual truth. Presenting an ex parte information or opinion can easily blear the eyes of masses at large. This technique was well utilized by Adolf Hitler during his reign. Making it compulsory to read his autobiography was nothing but a stratagem in this regard. Hitler, himself, wrote about propaganda in his autobiography:
|“The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the right of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly”.
(Mein Kampf, Chap 6)
The tool of propaganda has covert potential to arise public feelings. The most celebrated philosopher of 20th century, Bertrand Russell, wrote in his book ‘Education and the Social Order’ that “propaganda, when employed, is capable of arising uncivilized/unhampered passions to surface in the individual”. Theses uncivilized passions are a great threat to the social order of society, thus they are capable of creating anomie. During war, for example, states employ the tool of propaganda to urge its citizens to unleash their bitter sentiments toward the opponent, thus gaining support for waging war.
Emotions aroused by propaganda, some believe, can obfuscate people from scientific or intellectual inquiry. Through propaganda false information about things can be made to appear true. Joseph Goebbels, a Reich minister for propaganda from 1933 to 1945, said:
|“A false when told once remains false, but a false told over and over again becomes truth”.|
By making false appear true, propaganda can mislead intellectuals from their rational pursuit.
There are two sides of every coin, no doubt. Likewise, there are many beneficial features of propaganda when utilized with good intentions. For example, through literature and the mass media we can encourage social cohesion by inculcating healthy contents in it. It in such a way enhances the love for humanity as a whole rather than inclination of people toward a specific group or toward nationalism. But, propaganda, when seen from a critical eye, has more harmful impacts on the society than beneficial- more especially in today’s world of avarice.