Propaganda is frequently used by politicians and in the media to influence our attitudes and perceptions on key issues (Orwell1). Propaganda is commonly used to temporarily distract our attention from the real issues at hand (Kemerling 8). For example, Joseph Goebbels (a former Germany minister for propaganda in the Nazi regime) once stated that it would have been impossible to use propaganda against the masses if they knew how to differentiate between rational arguments from propaganda.
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This in effect means that politicians usually employ propaganda against an unsuspecting audience. People are easily swayed because they are unable to make out propaganda when they see it (Cross1). This paper will discuss deceptive strategies used to sway the perception and mindsets of the masses on critical issues.
Name-calling is one of the deceptions used by propagandist to sway our mindset about a particular issue or person without considering the significance of the person or the issue at hand. For instance, a politician vying for political office may describe his/her opponents as “two-faced liars” or “foolish idealists” (Cross 2). Politicians employ name-calling in order to prevent the targeted audience to think rationally but rather accept his/her propaganda categorically and blindly.
Glittering generalities is also a deceptive tactic used in language. Examples of glittering generalities include “our constitutional rights,” the American way” or “justice” (Cross 3). Many people are unaware of the adverse effects of glittering generalities on their way of thinking and end up agreeing to everything they hear. It is worthy to mention that glittering generalities are employed by politicians seeking elective positions in the government to provoke emotions of the masses and obscure their ways of thinking (Cross 3).
Another common manipulative strategy used in language is known as Plain Folk appeal. This strategy is also commonly used by people seeking elective posts in order to gain political mileage from the masses. Politicians use this strategy when they depict themselves as ordinary plain folks.
For instance, a politician soliciting votes from industrial workers may visit a factory and move around shaking hands with employees. The plain folks appeal is obviously a deceptive strategy. Although the politician may claim to be just an ordinary folk, he/she may not be interested in addressing the various problems facing the electorate once he/she is elected (Cross 4).
Argumentum ad populum is also another manipulative strategy used in language. It is a common strategy used by politicians as well as in media adverts. Politicians usually employ Argumentum populum when they dwell on issues that appeal to the targeted population.
For instance, a politician may tell university or college students that the future of the country is in their hands or tell cultivators that they constitute “the backbone of the economy” (Cross 5). The main intention here is to sway the targeted group from making critical analyses about the politician and what he/she stands for. The wellbeing of the masses is thus an irrelevant issue in this context (Cross 5).
Many companies also employ manipulative and deceptive language to advertise their products. The main reason for doing so is promote their products as the best in the market. For example, the phrase better is commonly used to demonstrate that a particular product (e.g. mango juice) is superior over other rival products that fall in the same category.
For example, a company may claim that its mango juice products are “the better breakfast drinks” (Schrank 5). There are several other deceptive and manipulative strategies used by companies in the media to market their products.
The Wiesel Claim is one such example (Harris 2). The phrase weasel is a modifier that basically contradicts the consequent claim. Examples of weasel phrases that are commonly used in adverts include “strengthened,” “enriched,” “virtually,” or “fortified” (Schrank 8).
These phrases are used to create an impression of supremacy of the product. Examples of weasel claims include “leaves dishes virtually spotless,” “only half the price of many color set.” These claims are used to convince buyers that the products are superior and cheaper than other sets in the same category (Schrank 8).
Another commonly used deception is known as The Unfinished Claim. It is a common marketing strategy that asserts the superiority of a particular product. However, it does not complete the comparison. An example of unfinished claim include “Anacin: Twice as much of the pain reliever doctors recommend most” (Schrank 9).
One can observe that this particular assertion suits in several product categories. Nonetheless the ad is incomplete because it does not make a comparison of Anacin with any other similar product in its category (Schrank 9). An unsuspecting buyer may be lured by this claim to buy the product believing that it is the best in the market.
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In certain types of writing (especially literary criticism) it is not unusual to find a number of sentences that employ deceptive phrases. For example, the phrase “Fascism” has lost its original connotation and it is currently used to refer to anything that is undesirable. Other expressions such as democracy, justice, socialism and freedom bear different connotations which cannot be synchronized.
For example, the word “democracy” is now used to refer to good governance. This word may thus be used (in a deceptive way) by a repressive regime to sway the mindset of the masses from the crucial issues at hand (Orwell12).
Cross, D. Woolfolk. “Tricks of the Propagandist.” Nov 10, 2000. Web.
Harris, Robert. “Fallacies associated with Language.” Jun 8, 2000. Web.
Kemerling, Garth. “Fallacies of Ambiguity.” Nov 12, 2011. Web.
Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” 1946. Web.
Schrank, Jeffrey. “The Language of Advertising Claims.” N.d. Web.